Managing COVID-19 risks: Personal care and beauty industry

Managing risks of exposure to COVID-19 in the personal care and beauty industry.

Directions and industry requirements are regularly updated

This guidance is correct as at time of publication, however, Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO) Directions and industry requirements are regularly updated. Readers of this guidance need to check the latest Victorian CHO Directions for applicability.

Restrictions apply across Victoria

Depending on your industry your workplace may:

  • be required to close temporarily for on-site work
  • remain open for on-site work with a completed COVIDSafe Plan in place
  • be subject to restricted operations or industry specific obligations

It is mandatory for every Victorian business with on-site operations to have a COVIDSafe Plan.

COVID-19 restrictions in Victoria may be updated at any time. You must stay up to date with changes for your industry.

How are my occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations impacted by the restrictions?

There is no change to your obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) as a result of the Directions issued by the Victorian Chief Health Officer (CHO).

Preparation of a COVIDSafe Plan forms part of the development of a safe system of work. However, having a COVIDSafe Plan and complying with the Victorian CHO Directions does not necessarily mean you have complied with all of your duties under the OHS Act and OHS Regulations.

You must follow any health directions that apply to how your business must operate, and ensure that you are meeting your obligations under the OHS Act. Employees must also comply with their duties under the OHS Act.

COVID-19 and the personal care and beauty industry

A COVID-19 infection can cause mild to severe respiratory illness.

Researchers are still learning about COVID-19, emerging variants of concern and its long-term effects.

Current research suggests that COVID-19 spreads through:

  • airborne aerosols generated by actions like coughing, sneezing, talking or singing – these can stay in the air for some time, especially in indoor spaces with poor ventilation
  • droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings – these can enter your eyes, nose or mouth when you are in close contact
  • touching objects or surfaces (such as door handles) contaminated with droplets

The personal care and beauty industry employs people in barber shops, beauty services, electrolysis, hairdressing, make up, massage, nail care and skin care services.

Employees in the personal care and beauty industry may have an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to:

  • work that requires close contact between employees and clients, for example when providing services that require physical contact
  • shared handling and use of rooms, tools and equipment
  • handling money or credit/debit cards
  • engaging with delivery drivers or contractors attending the workplace

Under the OHS Act, employers have a duty to provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees, including independent contractors. This includes preventing risks to health, including psychological health, and safety associated with potential exposure to COVID-19.

Employees have a duty to take reasonable care of their own and others' health and safety in the workplace and cooperate with their employers about any action they take to comply with the OHS Act or Regulations.

Identifying risks

Employers must identify hazards and if necessary, assess the likelihood of risk to the health of employees from exposure to COVID-19 at their workplace. This must be done in consultation with health and safety representatives (HSRs) if any, and employees, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers should consider every employee, from those working in reception, handling deliveries and product sales, through to those involved in providing personal services. This includes contractors and/or their employees who are required to come on site to carry out work for the employer, such as servicing and maintenance of equipment.

Risks for employees in the personal care and beauty industry include:

  • tasks that require employees to be in close contact to other employees, contractors and the public, especially if for prolonged periods of time
  • shared use of tools and equipment, for example, computers, telephones, EFTPOS machines and tools required to deliver services such as hair styling and beauty therapy equipment
  • handling products others have touched, for example, hair and skin products, nail polishes or massage oils
  • interaction with suppliers during product deliveries

Employers must also identify whether there are other increased risks as a result of COVID-19, such as:

  • fatigue and stress because of changes in the workplace, for example, changes to work processes, work hours and rosters
  • musculoskeletal risks associated with changes to the physical workplace or systems of work

Controlling risks

Face masks in workplaces

Directions from the Victorian CHO about face masks are in place across Victoria. For more information see the guidance Managing COVID-19 risks: Face masks in workplaces.

Where a risk to health is identified at a workplace, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate the risk. Where it is not possible to eliminate the risk, then the risk must be reduced, so far as is reasonably practicable.

The types of control measures required depends on the level of risk as well as the availability and suitability of controls for each workplace, including individual work areas.

Consult with employees

Employers have a duty to consult with employees, independent contractors and any health and safety representatives (HSRs), so far as is reasonably practicable, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect, or are likely to directly affect them. This includes consultation on identifying hazards or risks and decisions about how to control risks associated with COVID-19.

The consultation should be conducted in accordance with any agreed consultation procedures.

Ensure employees know what to do

An employer's duty to eliminate or reduce risks associated with exposure to COVID-19 so far as is reasonably practicable includes ensuring that:

  • employees know what to do or who to notify if they feel unwell or suspect they've been infected, according to the information provided by the Victorian Department of Health (DH)
  • any unwell employee does not attend the workplace, including those who have been tested for COVID-19 and received a negative test result
  • employees who have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting their results or who are confirmed COVID-19 cases do not attend the workplace

If an employee develops any of the symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, they should:

  • self-isolate immediately, seek advice from their doctor or the Victorian Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 and get tested
  • tell their employer as soon as possible, follow the procedures their workplace has in place, and update their employer if their situation changes (for example if they receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis)

Suspected or confirmed cases

The symptoms of COVID-19 to watch out for are: fever, chills or sweats, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny nose and loss or change in sense of smell or taste.

Some people may also experience headache, muscle soreness, stuffy nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.

In the event of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case at the workplace, Directions from the Victorian CHO may also require employers to take specific response actions.

Notifiable incidents and COVID-19

From 28 July 2020 new temporary regulations under the OHS Act specify when employers and self-employed persons must notify WorkSafe of a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 in the workplace. For more information see the guidance Notifiable incidents involving COVID-19.

Workplace screening

Employers should implement an employee and client screening process to minimise the introduction of COVID-19 into the workplace, for example by asking employees or clients before they enter the workplace if they:

  • are subject to any health directions (such as isolation, quarantine or in relation to travel)
  • have been in contact with any confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • have any of the COVID-19 symptoms

Under directions issued by the Victorian CHO, workplaces are required to keep records of attendance to assist with contact tracing.

Physical distancing

Employers need to ensure that physical distancing of at least a 1.5-metre distance between people is maintained, wherever possible.

Under Directions from the Victorian CHO, Workplaces may also be required to comply with particular density quotient rules.

Controls to achieve physical distancing may include:

  • mark safe distances in work, transit and break areas (for example on floors and walls)
  • install signs to advise clients of the requirements and the number of clients allowed in the particular space
  • introduce a booking system to specify the maximum number of clients to be in the workplace at any one time
  • consider temporarily ceasing any walk-in client services and request clients to book appointments before attending the workplace
  • minimise crowding at the service desk by having clients pay and rebook when seated in the workspace using EFTPOS and encouraging the use of phone or online bookings
  • encourage attendance just before an appointment. If the waiting area is full, request clients to come back at the appointed time
  • request clients leave the workplace promptly after the service has been provided
  • provide enough time between appointments so that clients do not overlap when arriving and leaving the workplace
  • if appointments are running overtime, contact clients to reschedule
  • allocate seating in waiting areas to ensure physical distancing of 1.5 metres between clients
  • redesign the workplace to ensure that the workspace enables physical distancing and any relevant density quotient rules that apply
  • where it is not possible to achieve physical distancing (for example when providing certain services to clients) supply appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to employees
  • request clients not bring family members or others to appointments
  • install physical barriers such as partitions to separate employees and clients from each other
  • allocate employees their own workspace or service room, products and equipment to avoid employees sharing products or equipment or entering each other's spaces
  • arrange equipment and product at each workspace to avoid employees moving around the workplace, including products needed for cleaning equipment
  • if using fans, position them in a way so that air is not blown directly from one person to another

The Victorian DH and the Australian Government have posters and other resources aimed at educating the public about COVID-19. These can be placed in environments where employees interact with clients and other people, for example in workplace entrances.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Other than face masks, other forms of PPE may be used in certain situations, after other control measures to protect against COVID-19 have been considered and implemented.

In some cases, the use of PPE (such as gloves, eye protection and disposable gowns) may be appropriate and recommended, such as when physical distancing cannot be achieved, or when the task involves risk of exposure to a client's blood or body fluids.

PPE needs to be practical for the work environment (allowing the necessary visibility and mobility) and properly decontaminated or disposed of when required.

Employers must provide information, instruction and training on the safe use, decontamination, maintenance and disposal of any PPE provided. They must also provide any necessary supervision.

Where PPE is required, employers must ensure that adequate PPE is available on site and within easy access.

Employers should monitor and encourage correct use of PPE, for example by providing information on posters about:

  • washing or sanitising hands before putting PPE on, and putting face protection on before gloves
  • removing gloves before face protection, washing or sanitising hands after removing PPE and decontaminating or disposing of used PPE safely

Employers should follow DH information on the appropriate use of PPE for COVID-19 in the work environment and Health Victoria's Infection prevention and control guidelines for hair, beauty, tattooing and skin penetration industries.

Employee and client hygiene

Maintaining good hygiene can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Employers should:

  • ensure all employees and clients follow good hygiene practices, including:
    • washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol-based hand sanitisers
    • coughing and sneezing into a tissue or coughing into their elbow or shoulder
    • immediately disposing of tissues into a waste bin, then washing hands
    • avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth
  • require clients wash hands or apply alcohol-based hand sanitiser on entering the workplace, in particular if working on hands (for example, nail services)
  • clean and disinfect surfaces and shared equipment after use
  • limit contact with others
  • display hygiene information in prominent locations in the workplace, such as meal break rooms, waiting areas and toilets

Employers also need to provide alcohol-based hand sanitisers containing at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not immediately available. Place hand sanitiser in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene. If possible, choose touch-free hand sanitiser stations.

Employers should also consider other ways to promote personal hygiene, such as:

  • building additional short breaks into employee schedules, to increase the frequency that employees can wash their hands
  • extending currently rostered breaks to allow employees to follow proper hygiene procedures
  • providing tissues and no-touch trash receptacles (for example, foot pedal-operated rubbish bins) for employees to use
  • reducing the number of touch points for employees (for example, by leaving access doors open where appropriate)

Employers should educate employees to avoid touching their faces, including their eyes, nose and mouth, particularly until after they have thoroughly washed their hands upon completing work and before putting on and after removing PPE.

Amenities

Employers need to ensure that washroom facilities for employees and clients have adequate facilities for good hygiene, including:

  • clean running water
  • adequate supply of soap
  • single-use paper hand towels or hand-drying machines
  • toilet paper

Facilities must be kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order.

Workplace cleaning

Thorough and regular cleaning needs to be undertaken of all frequently touched surfaces, such as:

  • door handles
  • counters
  • phones
  • EFTPOS machines

Employers should increase their usual cleaning practises, including at the end of each client service. In addition, employers should:

  • ensure employees frequently clean and disinfect their own personal items used in the workplace, such as glasses and phones
  • ensure workplace amenities including kitchens, lunchrooms, common areas, change rooms, toilets, and showers are cleaned and disinfected frequently. The frequency of this cleaning should increase from usual practices

Additional cleaning controls that may be required include:

  • ensure surfaces are cleaned if an employee or client spreads droplets, such as through sneezing, coughing or vomiting
  • ensure employees who are cleaning, wear gloves and follow manufacturers recommendations for use of PPE. For example, employees may need protective eye wear when using some chemicals. Where possible, wash hands with soap and water after cleaning or, if washing is not possible, use alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • provide closed bins in appropriate locations for employees to hygienically dispose of waste such as used tissues as soon as possible after use
  • provide alcohol-based hand sanitiser for employees to use after they dispose of their waste
  • where employees' work clothes are washed on site, launder them in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions using the warmest setting possible. Dry items completely. Do not shake dirty laundry as this may disperse the virus through the air
  • consider increasing the use of fresh outside air and reducing the use of recirculated air- conditioning in common areas

Cleaning needs to be conducted in accordance with the Victorian DH information on cleaning and disinfecting for workplaces.

Shared tools and equipment

Avoid the shared use of tools and equipment and consider using disposable items, wherever possible:

  • allocate each employee their own equipment and tools, such as trolleys, scissors, hair dryers, brushes and combs, etc
  • encourage clients to put on and remove their own protective clothing (for example capes, linen) and place in appropriate hampers

Where it is not possible to eliminate shared use:

  • provide cleaning products (for example, alcohol spray or solution) where communal tools and equipment are located
  • if tools or equipment must be moved around the workplace, keep cleaning products with them
  • ensure all employees thoroughly wash with soap and water or sanitise their hands before and after every use
  • ensure all parts of tools and equipment are sterilised or cleaned as appropriate after use
  • ensure items that come into contact with clients (such as linen) are stored in closed cabinets

The shared use of phones, desks, computers and other devices should also be avoided. Where this is not possible, these items should be regularly disinfected.

Deliveries, contractors and visitors attending the workplace

  • minimise the number of employees attending to deliveries and contractors as much as possible
  • delivery drivers and other contractors who need to attend the workplace to provide maintenance, repair services or perform other essential activities, should receive clear instructions of requirements while they are at the workplace
  • ensure handwashing facilities or, if not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitiser, is readily available for employees after physically handling deliveries
  • instruct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to remain in vehicles and use contactless methods (such as mobile phones) to communicate with employees wherever possible
  • instruct visiting delivery drivers and contractors to use alcohol-based hand sanitiser before handling products being delivered
  • use, and ask delivery drivers and contractors to use, electronic paperwork where possible, to minimise physical interaction. Where possible, set up alternatives to requiring signatures. For example, see whether a confirmation email or a photo of the loaded or unloaded goods can be accepted as proof of delivery or collection, as applicable

Communication and employee welfare

Employers should:

  • keep up to date with information on COVID-19, for example by regularly checking coronavirus.vic.gov.au, and regularly share this information with employees
  • maintain regular communication with employees on how COVID-19 is being managed at the workplace, and what controls are being put in place
  • provide information to employees in a format that they can readily understand (for example in their own language) and in multiple formats, such as email, posters and verbally
  • ensure there are contingency plans in place for employee replacement when necessary

Legal duties

Employers have duties under the OHS Act, which include that they must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
  • provide adequate facilities for the welfare of employees and independent contractors
  • provide such information, instruction, training or supervision to employees and independent contractors as is necessary to enable those persons to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
  • monitor the health of their employees
  • monitor conditions at any workplace under the employer's management and control
  • provide information concerning health and safety to employees, including (where appropriate) in languages other than English
  • ensure that persons other than employees of the employer are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer
  • consult with employees and HSRs, if any, on matters related to health or safety that directly affect or are likely to directly affect them

A person with management or control of a workplace must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the workplace and the means of entering and leaving it are safe and without risks to health.

Employees also have duties under the OHS Act, which includes that they must:

  • take reasonable care for their own health and safety
  • take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by the employee's acts or omissions at a workplace
  • co-operate with their employer with respect to any action taken by the employer to comply with a requirement imposed by or under the OHS Act

The OHS Act gives HSRs a role in raising and resolving any OHS issues with their employer, and powers to take issues further if necessary.